Mussa has been a refugee in Hungary since 2013 and is part of the Migrant Solidarity Group of Hungary (Migszol). He came from Eritrea, which is east of Sudan. “For some people that is already complicated. In the east of Sudan, there is an Eritrean community and there are more than four common tribes between the east of Sudan and Eritrea. They speak the same language, have the same tradition and food. I remember even though the border closed for four years between Sudan and Eritrea, people were still moving from one place to the other, because they shared a culture. People were brought together because of the common traditions, and fled the region because they made a cut in the community by closing the border. They avoided the political conflict between the two countries.
“[The refugees] are treated like a nuisance, a burden, while the only thing they – we – want is a normal life, to be in the modern society and to have a daily live, like everybody else. To take the children to school, go to work, pay tax, have a flat, a car. They want to have the same things as the rest of society.”
I was 27 when I arrived here. Migszol is a group that exists since 2014 and was founded because of several reasons: in Hungary there is no grassroots NGO or group that deals with the migration and refugee issues in a political way. All the NGOs currently existing in Hungary provide aid for the refugees, like blankets, breakfast and a talk. In the beginning the idea was not clear why we were trying to set up this group, but something happened in 2013: more than 72 Afghan who had been living in Bicske for three or four years got sick of just sitting inside the camp. There was an issue with refugees having to set up a tent camp within the centre. Because the government was becoming more and more anti-refugees, they wanted to close the whole deal and move them to a tent camp at the outskirts of Hungary, where the conditions are much worse in comparison with Bicske. In the end, Bicske closed and the refugees were moved to these border camps. They are treated like a nuisance, a burden, while the only thing they – we – want is a normal life, to be in the modern society and to have a daily live, like everybody else. To take the children to school, go to work, pay tax, have a flat, a car. They want to have the same things as the rest of society.
“We’ve decided that we want to take [the refugee struggle] to a political level, so we don’t need aid anymore. We wanted to raise these issues on a social and political level.”
But every day the laws in Hungary are changing, you can’t imagine. Every day you wake up in the morning and you will find a new law that they are developing. So these Afghan people they stood up and protested in front of the parliament, asking for shelters and more, but nothing happened. So since that day we’ve decided that we want to take it to a political level, so we don’t need aid anymore. We wanted to raise these issues on a social and political level. There are a lot of problems with certain minority populations in the Hungarian society and we want to bring everything to a political level. We try to get politicians to look at the problem, try to fix it and engage these minorities in the society. We just want to make Hungary a better place to live for the refugees and for all the other people who live here as well. We want to be one group, instead of different fragments.
“[The state doesn’t] give a chance to the Hungarian residents to at least stop and think. They just give them an easy scapegoat. That’s the situation right now.”
Unfortunately, the policy is always changing. There is always something new, they can also suddenly dig up an old law and reinstate it just like that. The state is using propaganda since three years by linking Soros’ plan with migration, with Jews and the attacks that happen in Belgium and Germany. They don’t give a chance to the Hungarian residents to at least stop and think. They just give them an easy scapegoat. That’s the situation right now. They never let them think about it. It’s not really easy, you have to convince a lot of people, use a lot of mechanisms and a lot of techniques to show the other side of this propaganda, so that the people at least can see things from a different perspective. That is what the Migrant Solidarity Group does.
“We listen to what kind of legal problems they have and give information. We don’t serve food.”
In 2014 we had a project for six months. Every two weeks we went to another camp and talked to people there. We gave them advice on how to walk the legal way of becoming a legal refugee. To get to that point as an asylum seeker, that’s a long process. It can take up to six months. If you don’t know the required steps, you get stuck at one point. We listen to what kind of legal problems they have and give information. We don’t serve food.
Most of the NGOs talk about refugees and not with refugees. A lot of people of our Migrant Solidarity Group are refugees, refugees that took the initiative to integrate themselves into Hungarian and European society. It’s incredibly interesting at that table to sit and listen to everybody. Some of these people also work in international organisations. They discuss issues, analyse what’s going on outside, how we should defend this, how we should do that. We don’t want to register to be an official NGO because of issues with Hungarian law. We know the other NGOs, but they are not our partners.
We also participate in a lot of events and discussions to try to make the scholars, the public policy or the general public to talk about these important issues. Because the people who have the knowledge, they can make the issue move.
We are all volunteers and the thing is that we donate some money from our pockets if we do an event or get donations from other people. There are a lot of volunteers who don’t even live here in Hungary and help with writing and translating articles. Right now, we are six people who sit around the table.
“You have to deal with what exists, try to make it better and leave a chance for other people behind you to develop what you left. That’s the idea of being human.”
We are not in the Stone Age anymore, there was already a strike against everything. You have to deal with what exists, try to make it better and leave a chance for other people behind you to develop what you left. That’s the idea of being human.”
Interview and photos by Sonderland